16 must-have Android productivity apps

From basic business tasks to advanced automation, these 16 apps will make your Android device more useful than ever

16 must-have Android productivity apps

16 must-have Android productivity apps

Gone are the days of a phone revolving around voice communication. These days, a mobile device is a powerful personal computer, and with the right set of tools, it can be an invaluable productivity machine.

How do you transform your Android device from interesting gadget to indispensable assistant? We have you covered. These 16 apps are among the best functionality-expanding productivity tools available for Android today. Put them on your Android smartphone or tablet, and get ready to watch your productivity soar.

(Note that this list does not include Google apps that come preloaded by default with Android, such as Gmail and Google Drive.)

[ Android is now ready for real usage in the enterprise. Read InfoWorld's in-depth guide on how to make Android a serious part of your business. | Get the best office apps for your Android device. ]

OfficeSuite 8

OfficeSuite 8

OfficeSuite 8 has won our last three Android office suite shoot-outs, and for good reason: It's hands-down the best fully featured office suite available for Android users.

OfficeSuite Pro costs $14.99 plus another $10 for an essential font compatibility add-on (or $19.99 a year via an in-app purchase for the Premium version, if you'd rather go the subscription route) -- but you get what you pay for: The program boasts an elegant design on both smartphones and tablets and is jam-packed with advanced desktoplike functionality for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It integrates with numerous cloud storage services and offers native PDF-markup commands.

Even with Microsoft's own Office apps now available on Android, OfficeSuite 8 remains the most robust and user-friendly option the platform has to offer.

App: OfficeSuite 8
Price: $14.99 for Pro; $19.99 per year for Premium
Developer: MobiSystems

Cabinet

Cabinet BETA

One of Android's greatest assets for power users is its unrestricted file system access: You can browse your Android device as you would a computer, navigating through folders and moving, deleting, or sharing files as you wish.

Plenty of apps can help you do that, but Cabinet BETA stands out for its clean and modern Material Design-based user interface. Cabinet makes it easy to manipulate folders and files, zip and unzip archives, and share files directly to any service you have on your device (email, social media, cloud storage, and so on). Best of all, it's free.

App: Cabinet BETA
Price: Free
Developer: Aidan Follestad

AirDroid

AirDroid

When you're at your desk, it can get annoying to keep grabbing your smartphone to send texts or see whose call you missed. Why not do it all from your PC instead?

AirDroid makes it possible: Once you've installed the app on your phone or tablet, you simply pull up web.airdroid.com on your computer's Web browser. From there, you can read and send texts, view call logs, browse through your device's storage, and wirelessly transfer files between your Android device and computer. With certain devices, AirDroid can even fully mirror your home screen on your desktop and allow you to control your phone completely from your computer.

AirDroid works over both Wi-Fi and mobile data connections. The app itself is free to use, though some features require a $20-per-year premium subscription.

App: AirDroid
Price: Free; $20 per year for Premium
Developer: Sand Studio

Chrome Remote Desktop

Chrome Remote Desktop

Want full remote access to your PC from your Android phone or tablet? Google's free Chrome Remote Desktop is all you need. Simply install the companion app for the Chrome desktop browser -- compatible with any operating system where the browser is supported -- and within minutes, you'll be securely connecting to your computer from your mobile device.

Once connected, you can use your Android device to open folders, manipulate files, and run programs on your desktop system as if you were sitting right in front of it. You can connect multiple computers to the service, too; all you have to do is install and configure the Chrome app on each additional system, and it'll show up as an option in the app.

App: Chrome Remote Desktop
Price: Free
Developer: Google

Google Now Launcher

Google Now Launcher

Android device makers love to muddy the OS's interface with their attempts at visual design, but more often than not, those changes are a step in the wrong direction. Why not take matters into your own hands? The Google Now Launcher -- loaded by default on Google's own Nexus devices -- gives you a clean and simple "stock" home screen setup that'll improve your mobile experience and make you more productive.

Aside from eliminating the clashing colors and excessive clutter many manufacturers add into the environment, the Google Now Launcher puts the powerful Google Now service right at your fingertips as a permanent panel at the leftmost side of your home screen. That makes the service feel more like a native part of the system and allows easier access to useful contextual info that's tailored to your needs.

App: Google Now Launcher
Price: Free
Developer: Google

Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook

Wish you could have the familiar Outlook email interface on your Android phone or tablet? Until recently, you were out of luck -- but no more.

Microsoft officially released its Outlook app for Android earlier this year. The free app works with Microsoft Exchange accounts, as you'd expect, and it supports Office 365 and Outlook.com, along with third-party services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and iCloud. It has integrated Outlook calendar support as well, including a nifty native scheduling feature.

If you already live in Microsoft's world, the Outlook app for Android may be the missing piece you've been waiting for.

App: Outlook
Price: Free
Developer: Microsoft

Today Calendar

Today Calendar

Regardless of how you manage your appointments, being able to see them at a glance on your home screen goes a long way. The native Android calendar widget leaves something to be desired (as do most native widgets added by phone manufacturers), but fear not: Plenty of excellent alternatives are available.

One of the best and most versatile options belongs to Today Calendar, a top-notch calendar app that works seamlessly with the Google Calendar service. The app -- which is available both in a free ad-supported form and a $6 Pro version -- includes an attractive scrollable agenda widget as well as a separate month-view widget. Both widgets are completely customizable, so you can make them look exactly how you like.

Today's full app interface is also a meaningful step above the default calendar apps provided on many devices in terms of both features and design (though you don't have to use it in order to get the widgets).

App: Today Calendar
Price: Free; $6 for Pro
Developer: Underwood Apps

Google Keep

Google Keep

Need a simple way to keep track of thoughts, tasks, and lists? (Who doesn't?) Google's Keep app gives you a dead-simple interface for recording, managing, and sharing all the little things in your life.

Keep allows you to jot down notes or leave yourself memos via voice and have them transcribed automatically into text. You can snap photos to include with notes, too, and even search later to find any text visible in those images.

Keep has a bunch of other useful bells and whistles, including a checklist function, the ability to tag and color-code items (then sort by those variables for easy access), and the ability to set location-based reminders for specific notes or lists. The app also makes it possible to share notes or lists, then collaborate on them with others in real time.

Perhaps most important, Keep works on any platform -- and everything you do is always synced across all of your devices.

App: Keep
Price: Free
Developer: Google

Evernote

Evernote

For hardcore note-taking junkies, Evernote is a tough app to beat. The service allows you to create multiple notebooks into which you can save text notes, complex lists, images, and voice reminders. You can even send content into an Evernote notebook by emailing it to a special address connected to your account.

Evernote keeps your stuff synced with its own cloud-based service. It's accessible on the Web and on most major platforms, so that setup tends to work well enough.

Evernote is free, though certain functions -- including offline access, advanced searching, and increased transfer allotments -- require a $25- or $50-per-year premium subscription.

App: Evernote
Price: Free
Developer: Evernote

Expensify

Expensify

As any road warrior knows, keeping track of expenses can be a pain. Expensify can ease the burden. The app provides an easy-to-follow interface for tracking time, miles, receipts, and invoices on the go, then generating on-demand reports as needed.

Expensify lets you scan receipts as you get them, after which it automatically pulls out the pertinent info from the images and puts it into your records. It can tap into your phone's GPS to log miles as you drive, and it offers offline functionality for the times when you can't get a signal.

Expensify is free, though optional premium plans will lift certain usage restrictions and unlock additional features.

App: Expensify
Price: Free; premium plans starting at $5
Developer: Expensify

TripIt

TripIt

Travelers, meet your new best friend. TripIt takes all the heavy lifting out of travel, giving you a simple centralized place for storing and tracking all your travel info.

Once you sign up for TripIt, all you do is forward every travel-related email -- flight reservations, hotel bookings, even car rental or restaurant confirmations -- to plans@tripit.com. TripIt then extracts the important details and puts them into comprehensive and user-friendly itineraries that are accessible from any phone or tablet (as well as from the Web). It can also sync the data automatically into your Google Calendar, if you want.

TripIt is free; an optional $50-per-year Pro subscription gets you a variety of advanced premium features, including real-time flight alerts and a virtual assistant for finding alternate flights along the way.

App: TripIt
Price: Free; $50 per year for Pro version
Developer: MobiSystems

Google Translate

Google Translate

Going abroad? Google Translate is the companion you need. Translate makes it easy to convert text from one language to another in ways that actually make sense.

Sure, you can type in a phrase in your native tongue and have Translate move it into another language. But you can also take a snapshot of a sign, menu, or document with your phone and have Translate decipher the text. You can speak into your phone in one language and have Translate speak back in another. And you can do it all offline, provided you download the necessary language packs in advance.

Google Translate is free. ¿Cómo te gustan las manzanas?

App: Google Translate
Price: Free
Developer: Google

SwiftKey

SwiftKey

Depending on your device, your default keyboard may be decent, but there's a strong chance SwiftKey is better.

SwiftKey -- free, with optional in-app purchases for extra themes -- provides outstanding next-word prediction that's personalized based on your typing habits. The app also has an excellent swipe-to-type option that lets you input text by sliding your finger from one letter to the next without lifting.

All combined, it's a stellar keyboard that can boost productivity and transform your smartphone- or tablet-using experience.

App: SwiftKey
Price: Free
Developer: SwiftKey

Link Bubble

Link Bubble

Let's face it: Opening links from your phone isn't always the best experience. Anytime you tap a link within an app -- a news-reading tool, for instance, or a social media browser -- you have to stop what you're doing and wait for the page to take over your display and load.

Link Bubble brings a much-needed intelligent upgrade to the process. The app -- which is completely free as of this month -- opens all of your links in a floating and movable bubble that sits on the side of your screen. You can keep doing whatever you're doing and continue to open more links as you encounter them.

Whenever you're ready to read the content you've opened, you simply tap the bubble -- and the pages appear in an overlay window on your screen. With another tap or swipe, you can move between them, share them to another app or service, or shrink them back down for later perusing.

It makes so much sense, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

App: Link Bubble
Price: Free
Developer: Link Bubble

Hooks

Hooks

Android notifications are powerful -- but what if you could connect them to the Web and make them even more robust?

With the help of a free app called Hooks, you can. Hooks lets you set up custom notifications based on events that happen online -- and in the real world. You could have the app notify you on your phone anytime your website or server goes down, for instance, or anytime new information is released about a software vulnerability you're tracking. You could configure alerts for package deliveries, stocks of interest, or mentions of your company in Google search and social media.

And all of that is only the start.

App: Hooks
Price: Free
Developer: Hooks

Tasker

Tasker

Our last must-have Android productivity app is perhaps the most powerful and versatile of all. It's called Tasker, and it's an Android power-user's dream.

In short, Tasker -- which costs $2.99 -- lets you create intelligent automation on your device. You could have your phone automatically connect to a certain Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth device whenever you're in a particular location or change its ring behavior and volume settings based on location, time of day, or currently occurring calendar events.

Tasker isn't for the faint of heart -- if you want something simpler but less versatile, the more user-friendly (and free) Agent might be the app for you -- but if you're up for a little geek-targeted tinkering, Tasker will open your Android device up to a practically limitless range of new and exciting possibilities.

App: Tasker
Price: $2.99
Developer: Crafty Apps EU